If you’re like most of us, when anger takes control of your emotions, you may find yourself saying things that hurt the people you care about. In our seminars, we often get people who ask, “When I feel so angry, is there a way I can learn to stop and think before I speak?” Fortunately, our experience has shown us that it is possible to avoid saying things that you’ll later regret. Learning this skill will set you on the path to living a regret-free life, filled with happiness instead of sorrow.
First of all, think about how you feel in the heat of an argument. You may think that you must not care about the words that are coming out of your mouth for you to say such things in the first place. We want you to know that this is not true. In fact, we have a hunch that you do care a great deal about what comes out of your mouth. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be reading this article or finding yourself having regrets about what you said. Understanding the motivations beneath the words you say is the key to finding a better way to handle heated conversations.
What Lies Beneath All the Angry Words
Throughout our lives, we all create a set of beliefs about ourselves and others. Some of our beliefs can be very limiting. These undiscovered, limiting beliefs can cause us to feel angry and say things we regret later. Overcoming these limitations requires 3 things:
1. First, we need to become conscious of what these limiting beliefs are, and how they affect our perception of the world.
2. Next, we must learn to develop ways to notice when these less than desirable beliefs are being triggered.
3. Finally, we have to create deliberate intentions for how we want to respond in these situations instead of reacting through the filter of our limiting beliefs.
Without these three actions, we tend to react the same way over and over again without understanding why.
Speaking in anger is frequently an unconscious reaction based on the limiting beliefs that we hold. We tend to get angry for one of two reasons: either we believe something should (or should not) be happening in a situation, or because one of our limiting beliefs has been stimulated. Often both things are happening simultaneously.
How Can I Recognize a Limiting Belief?
When we get to the core of people’s limiting beliefs, they often sound something like: “I don’t matter and people are selfish,” “I’m not good enough and people expect too much,” “I can’t take care of myself” and “people are dangerous.” Sometimes, they are a combination of these or any number of similar statements. It seems we have all created one or more of our own unique variations on this theme.
We’ve never met anyone (including ourselves) who is completely free of limiting beliefs such as these. We’re not suggesting they’re “bad” things, or that we need to understand “why” they came into being, or even that we need to “fix” them.
The good news is that a belief is just something that you think over and over again. So all you really need to do is start thinking something different. The best way to do this is to become conscious about these limiting beliefs so you can stop being controlled by them and start to create the things that you want in your life.
Of course, there are many other reasons why we react the way we do–way too many to cover in this article. So for now, we want to give some specific advice about how to stop and think before speaking. Here are a few how-to’s that we hope will help:
First, you need to get a better understanding about how we end up creating limiting beliefs. In our video, “How to Reclaim Your Authentic Happiness,” we explain how the situations we encounter early in life are misinterpreted and used as the building blocks of our limiting beliefs. These thought patterns become habitual and are deeply ingrained in our subconscious. Even when we no longer remember the triggering event, we still react based on the beliefs that were created.
Second, it would also be very helpful if you got clear about what you value most. On our website, we offer a free values exercise that can help you to discover what’s most important to youwhat you need to be happy. After you’ve done this, when you start getting upset, you can ask yourself “Am I living in harmony with what I value?” If you’re not, identify at least one action you can take that is in harmony with what you value.
Third, we suggest that you start identifying the specific thoughts you are thinking when you first start feeling upset — before it turns to anger. Start noticing how your body feels at those times. Where do the sensations first start to happen? Describe the earliest sensations you can notice and get familiar with them.
Finally, we’ve found it can be very helpful if you learn to use those feelings as an alarm bell that signals you to focus your attention on your values and what you can do that will help to create the outcome you want in the situation. As we discuss in our article, “Are you angry? Good!” anger isn’t always a bad thing. Anger is an important part of your emotional guidance system. Rather than suppressing it, use it to uncover the hidden values that may be missing in your situation.